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Emotional growth is hard - damn hard - and painful and quite humorous at times!In reading through my past blogs, I feel like I give the impression that before my emotional and mental growth period while recovering from a brain injury, that I was a complete neanderthal, totally unaware and oblivious.

While this is partially true, it’s not entirely.

I wanted and was trying to grow, but was still planted firmly in fear, limitations, and “can’t.” I had good intentions.

Doesn’t that count for something?

Looing back on my predicament, it was like I had one foot in a boat and one foot on dry land. As stress and the painful events of my life piled up the distance between the boat and the land got further and further apart. While I’m amazingly limber and did a split straddling the gap for as long as I could, I fell into the water with a big splash when I tried to commit suicide.

In retrospect, I now know that I was in a transition phase emotionally and physically. Emotionally, I was trying to evolve and be more mature, less dramatic and reactive. Goodness knows I’d read enough self-help books and understood what was necessary intellectually.

Physically, through neuroplasticity, I believe that my brain was in the process of rewiring itself to make me a calmer, wiser, more aware person. However, neuroplastic change takes consistent practice and time – not nearly quick enough for me. When extreme anxiety hit, the well-worn pathways of my old habits were the go-to defaults.

I wrote the snarky observations below before my suicide attempt and growth phase.  Some reflect my limiting thinking patterns at that time.  Some hint at brief moments of insight in which I was able to glimpse the wisdom and humor in all the crap swirling around me in my life.

When I read these thoughts now, I can see how stuck in my story I was and am very grateful to be where I am now instead. My friend says, “If you like where you are, you can’t complain about how you got there.”   Many of the same hurdles mentioned below are still in my life today, plus a few new ones because of my brain injury, but I’m a very different person. Thank goodness!

Think phoenix.

I’ve learned to practice mindfulnesslook for the good, focus on the possibilities, and see opportunities in obstacles. When a challenging situation arises now, I take a broader perspective as if looking through a wide angle lens without labeling it good or bad.  My experience of anything is made up of my thoughts and actions.  With these, I make a situation good or bad as I move through it.

Nothing seems so large or insurmountable anymore, and I can always figure out an alternate route to get to where I need to go with patience and faith.

Road blocked? No biggie. I’ll just go another way, but I will get there.

  • I have learned that taking well-timed naps is a viable, self-defense mechanism. When you’re asleep you don’t have to think, feel, worry or even exist on any level.
  • I have learned that little boys don’t value sleep quite the same way, and, if you zonk out on the couch one Friday night, they may stay up until 4AM playing video games simply because they can.
  • I have learned that you shouldn’t attend a wedding too soon after you get divorced or you’ll end up crying until snot comes out of your nose, and it will have nothing to do with the blessed union you are witnessing before you.
  • I have learned that you can be married to someone for 18 years and look at them sitting across from you in a fancy lawyer’s office and realize that they are just as much a stranger to you as the girl who led you to the room and gave you a bottle of water because your mouth was dry.
  • I have learned that dogs make good cuddlers, but sloppy kissers, and they leave little hairs all over your sheets.
  • I have learned that a dog may leave little hairs on your sheets, but he is very forgiving about your toxic morning breath, bed head, and the big wrinkle imprint on the side of your face.
  • I have learned that a cat rolling around on her back in a sunny spot on the driveway can always make you smile even when you thought you had nothing to smile about.
  • I have learned that a 45-year-old man who has been married one time in his life for 13 months can accumulate quite an impressive collection of coffee cups and Tupperware from his multitude of old girlfriends and will add many of your prime specimens to his collection.
  • I have learned that even though you might be mad at your dead brother for not intervening in your life according to your wishes, he can still let you know he’s very much around one night at the grocery store which leaves you sobbing uncontrollably in the middle of the canned goods on aisle five.
  • I have learned that “good-byes” are just as much a part of life as “hellos” and that you better get used to both.
  • I have learned that no one has the right to lie to you, treat you badly, and continuously hurt you, no matter how much you think you love them.
  • I have learned that it’s much more important what you think about the person staring back at you in the mirror than what others think about them.

You can read more like this in my tell-all memoir Sex, Suicide and Serotonin.

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  1. Debbie,
    This is wonderful. I feel I was able to get to know so much about you in a single <1000 word post. Thanks for letting me see this side of you and for sharing your life with us. I can learn a lot from you and enjoy the process.

    I no longer have any pets, but this one really made me smile, "I have learned that a cat rolling around on her back in a sunny spot on the driveway can always make you smile even when you thought you had nothing to smile about."

    It's so true!

    A few of these made me teary, I've felt similar things in similar situations and it made me feel less alone, too.

    Thumbs up, lovely. You are gorgeous.

  2. Still watching and readin Hamps. It's a long journey and there is still lots to do and obstacles to get around but a happy traveller has lighter steps. Xxx

  3. Debbie Hampton Reply

    You are alive and kicking! The steps are definitely much lighter than they have been!

  4. Debbie Hampton Reply

    Hey Lori! Thanks for the beautiful words of support and encouragement. I think it is totally good to look at the past and feel it — whatever is there still left to feel, but not to live in it and stay there. I have learned to do that now. Moving on….

    And to consciously find the joy, beauty and humor along the way and focus on that. With six cats, I can always find a reason to smile!

  5. Debbie,
    I can't tell you how much I needed to read this. Thank you so much for your thoughts and wisdom. You are truly inspiring. I originally found your blog during a difficult period in my relationship and just recently am an ex-provider of the coffee cup collection of said 45 (now almost 50) year old man. Honestly, I'm worn out and beat up (metaphorically). While I'm well aware that your blog was not meant for anyone in particular, while reading it I found myself thinking 'does she know me?' Funny, huh?

    I also found myself thinking 'i wish my brain could be where hers is'. Because I too feel like I'm at a place, as you were, where my intentions are good, I understand everything intellectually but find it so difficult to keep the patience and know how to keep on the path to change the rewiring. Those well worn pathways are so strong…and stubborn.

    I too teared up reading your blog today and just wanted to let you know how much I have enjoyed reading your words and how inspirational they have been. Thank you so much. I will keep trying every day to rewire the old circuits and know that I will get there.

  6. Debbie Hampton Reply

    Good to hear from you, Shelly. I am so glad that my words and experiences touch and inspire you.

    I can tell you that all experiences along the way are lessons and stepping stones. It is your choice as to whether you learn something from them and keep moving along your path of growth and happiness. Or, like me, the stones have to crush you before you decide maybe it is not such a good place for you anymore.

    Keep making decisions that are in your best interest and take care of you every day. Even an inch in the right direction is progress. You will get there. Patience and persistence. Keep at it!! Blessings to you!

  7. Tony Piparo Reply

    I have learned that even if you don't like where you're at now, you can't blame how you got here. I have learned that I have to find a way to accept, love, embrace, and celebrate the person looking back at me in the mirror no matter how many flaws I perceive I have. I have learned that once I love myself for who I am, then I can forgive any perceived flaws. Great blog. keep it up. It keeps me thinking.

  8. Debbie Hampton Reply

    Tony…many thanks to you for helping me to get to my present place. Teachers are everywhere…even the people who allow us to create so much grief and pain in our lives. Especially those. I believe you attract the kind of teachers you think you deserve. Thanks to you for being one of the nice ones and kudos to me for only allowing nicer ones now!

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